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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Monkeys in Armani suits

Andrew Sheng is a scholar and high-level government official who has succinctly and hilariously explained how the recent global economic meltdown came about – as I wrote in this blog a while ago, it was basically brought about by all-round greed of the ‘monkey’ variety (read Sheng’s article). He has saved me a lot of trouble. For those of my readers who cannot wade through ‘sophisticated’ economic jargon to get to the heart of the matter, let me leave the assurance that it all happened exactly as Sheng has described: truth has always been stranger than fiction (or rather, great writers pick up cues from all the bizarre truths they see around them). Only, he might have explained the ‘herd instinct’ (which is, believe it or not, very strong among the rich and ‘educated’ – meaning MBAwallahs, of course, not the really wise) and ‘domino effect’ in a little more detail, though I guess that would have made the article drearily long, and robbed it of much flavour. And he might have quoted Abraham Lincoln, too: ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time’. Alas, hotshot MBAs thought they could! That is why that line at the end of Sheng’s article is priceless – a monkey in an Armani suit is still a monkey (I could sue him for stealing my line… this is something I have said a thousand times in my classes!). Such monkeys impress only other monkeys like themselves. The problem with the world today is that there are too many greedy monkeys around, all flaunting MBAs and the latest boys’ toys, and they manage to rise very high up the corporate ladder before people begin to find out how harmful such monkeys are… as the wag said, the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history (it is not just a pretty coincidence that as a rule those who aim to be MBAs already find history 'uncool' by early teenage)!
P.S., May 15: For those who still imagine MBAs know and do something worthwhile, here is an eye-opening link. Of course, those who don't want to have their eyes opened...! many thanks to Navin Rustagi for this link.

41 comments:

Subhanjan said...

While I do agree with what has been said by Mr. Sheng, and while I do abominate the undeserving applause and sophisticated air that an MBA pulls from the crowd (though the crowd is getting wiser each day and empowering the words - 'you can’t fool all the people all the time’), I do not quite agree to the thought that as a rule MBAs find history 'uncool'. I am myself going to be an MBA, and I have never found History 'uncool'. Not only History but also other subjects of importance like Literature, Philosophy, Sociology, to name a few. And I know an MBA or two who are not exactly the 'monkey' thing, but 'educated' (if by being 'educated' one means to be worthy of being called a human and a good reader and thinker, and not on the basis of what degree he has or what other people with the same degree do).

I am not defending MBAs. There is an awful domain of MBAs out there. But a coin always has two sides. And I loath a sales manager who is a top-to-bottom bluffer as much as a so-called 'educated' professor (who might be an M.A or MSc or MPhil - degrees associated more with being 'educated' than the degree MBA ) who - as many others - has cheated through the university exams and lives on selling notes to hundreds of students.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

To start with, Subhanjan, I do not think you read Sheng’s article carefully, leave alone try to check out for yourself whether he has been true to the facts.

Secondly, your personal irritation does not decide whether what Sheng and I have said is true.

Thirdly, I hold no brief for teachers with MA or MSc degrees: you may have forgotten that I have said again and again that most such ‘educated’ teachers in this country are brutes and bores, and they are taking the country to the dogs. That does not make MBAs a better breed, though!

Lastly, nobody can deny that as a rule (do you know the meaning of that phrase? I doubt it, otherwise you would not have made the inane comment about there being rare exceptions. Of course there are, and the exceptions prove the rule!), especially over the last 20 years, only talentless and lazy duds who are also greedy for quick money have gone in for MBAs. The fact that these people get angry when such things are said about them is beside the point: Sheng’s article and my comments were directed at the immense harm that such ‘monkeys’ generally do if they are given too much corporate power. It is only by cheating and hurting a lot of nice ordinary people that the average MBA, who can neither act nor write nor do surgery nor fight cases in court nor teach nor has the guts for politics or crime can hope to make big money. Didn't you yourself confess privately to me that they talk openly about hoodwinking people - murga banaana - for their personal career advancement? And when you are one of them, you cannot pretend that you don't smell of the muck. You can claim it, but don't expect people to believe you!

Soumallya Chattopadhyay said...

Sir,
We all know that most of the corporate world is thriving presently by deceit and treachery.
And the MBA-s are heading this group of people.I do remember your description of an MBA-"A person who knows nothing in deep,but everything in a very shallow manner".
I agree with you in this point that the people who attain their MBA degrees from the roadside private colleges are of that same breed"in fact worse than that"
But at the same time,a thought in my mind is coming in conflict with your view for which I am little confused-here it is;
The very few students who have got a chance to pursue MBA degree from college like the IIM are meritorious students.So I do not think that they are of that "Monkey" class.They are very much well established in society(in good sense).
The above view is completely my personal thought.I may be wrong in assessing the IIM-MBA's.So I would earnestly request you to please clear my confusion and write your opinion about the students of IIM.Do they also belong to the "Monkey" breed?I shall wait for your reply.
Thanking You
With regards,
Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I fear that you, like Subhanjan, did not care to read Sheng's article carefully enough, Soumallya; or else you didn't understand. In a veiled and mocking way, he has accused MBAs from the world's most famous B-schools (all American, of course, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and the like, which wouldn't even deign to consider the IIMs in the same league with them) as having played the key roles in bringing about the current economic disaster. It is the same people whom the present US President has angrily condemned for their 'culture of limitless and infectious greed'. Need I say more?

Sayan Datta said...

Firstly let me apologize to Sir and all his serious readers, for I won't be able to comment intelligently on this post being a novice in the field of economics.
And honestly speaking, I did find it difficult to wade through all the economic jargon, though I think I got the crux of the matter. I am only writing in to share a few thoughts -
The first question I ask myself is - why do people study for an MBA? What is learning anyway and what end does it serve? The answer I get is that it brings modesty, wisdom and a sense of fulfillment nowhere else to be found and it only serves an end when it is put to some good (not necessarily profitable) use. Going by that definition, how many MBAs (or wannabe MBAs) do I know who are wise, modest and who seriously seek intellectual and emotional fulfillment through their jobs. The answer is obvious - none. Then why did they go for an MBA? The answer to this question should also be obvious enough - to make easy and quick money.
I think Soumallya is being naive in thinking that merit and social status are the determining criterion of how honest one is in his dealings with others. If that were true then Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes could have exchanged places, and it wouldn't have made the tiniest difference!
I am somehow being reminded of Tagore's lament - Only if this country had more good than clever men!
Sayan Datta

Sayan Datta said...

Sir, I will feel grateful if you can please delete my earlier comment and publish this revised one. I am sorry I hade committed some silly grammartical errors.

Firstly let me apologize to Sir and all his serious readers, for I won't be able to comment intelligently on this post being a novice in the field of economics.
And honestly speaking, I did find it difficult to wade through all the economic jargon, though I think I got the crux of the matter. I am only writing in to share a few thoughts -
The first question I ask myself is - why do people study for an MBA? What is learning anyway and what end does it serve? The answer I get is that it brings humility, wisdom and a sense of fulfillment nowhere else to be found and it only serves an end when it is put to some good (not necessarily profitable) use. Going by that definition, how many MBAs (or wannabe MBAs) do I know who are modest, wise, and who seriously seek intellectual and emotional fulfillment through their jobs? The answer is obvious - none. Then why did they go for an MBA? The answer to this question should also be obvious enough - to make easy and quick money.
I think Soumallya is being naive in thinking that merit and social status have anything to do with honesty. If that were true then Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes could have exchanged places, and it wouldn't have made the tiniest difference!
I am somehow being reminded of Tagore's lament - Only if this country had more good than clever men!
Sayan Datta

Sayan Datta said...

I did find it difficult to wade through all the economic jargon, though I think I got the crux of the matter. I am only writing in to share a few thoughts -
The first question I ask myself is - why do people study for an MBA? What is learning anyway and what end does it serve? The answer I get is that it brings humility, wisdom and a sense of fulfillment nowhere else to be found and it only serves an end when it is put to some good (not necessarily profitable) use. Going by that definition, how many MBAs (or wannabe MBAs) do I know who are modest, wise, and who seriously seek intellectual and emotional fulfillment through their jobs? The answer is obvious - none. Then why did they go for an MBA? The answer to this question should also be obvious enough - to make easy and quick money.
I think Soumallya is being naive in thinking that merit and social status have anything to do with honesty. If that were true then Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes could have exchanged places, and it wouldn't have made the tiniest difference!
I am somehow being reminded of Tagore's lament - If only this country had more good than clever men!
Sayan Datta

Sudipto Basu said...

I must thank Sir for linking Sheng's article (being a Telegraph subscriber, it is unlikely I would've known about this piece otherwise). The tone of this article is precisely what befits the situation and its perpetrators. The perpetrators, by the way, weren't just the hotshot corporates. The common man with his sky-high hopes that the market was going to ride the crest long enough for him to make easy money is not to be spared the rod (if it has to be administered). I remember expressing my confusion regarding the lack of common sense (in the context of this recession) a few days back, it seems they have been allayed to an extent.

That said, I perhaps wouldn't label MBA-s as the only ones uninterested in history, the overwhelming majority of our school-going crowd is much the same. Not completely their blame: schoolbooks on history are shabbily written with a lot of dates and useless trivia cluttering the really important matter (Einstein, it is said, once protested in his history class that who defeated whom did not interest him much; he was interested in why they were waging war in the first place!). My sister, for example, finds reading history tiresome, but attentively listens when we discuss historical events and causes.

PS: By the way, I've done my bit in spreading word about this article. Liked it that much! :)

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for spreading the word around, Sudipto. You could very kindly tell your friends - those with a bit of brains, that is - about my blog, too.

I'm sure you do understand that by hurling contemptuous invective at MBAs, I only meant a certain type. All those teenagers who have been brainwashed into believing 'I must get a BTech so I can get a job easily so I will never have to read a book again for the rest of my life' fit into the same type very well. You know how numerous they are among your contemporaries, and I know how increasingly common they have become among the 'educated' class in the last three decades - that is why I fear for the country, and for civilization itself.

One last point. I am sorry, but I cannot agree with you that school history books are drab and dreary. I find my daughter's current textbook most interesting, and so does she. Of course, that matter of brainwashing arises once again: if you have already been convinced by 'wise' parents and teachers and neighbours that history is boring and useless, you will approach a book with a closed mind, and so you are bound to find it boring. A lot of people would find Newton's and Darwin's books very boring, too... only crambooks are 'interesting', because they help you to get through examinations without much effort!

As for remembering dates, it is just as silly to think you can know history without dates as that you can do math without formulae or geography without maps or chemistry without equations or biology without diagrams. If you like history, the dates will be memorised automatically, effortlessly - I'm sure you had a chance to witness, while attending my classes, how I could reel off hundreds of famous dates in history from memory, not just Indian history but European, American, Russian, Chinese... and I don't even have a degree in history. If a man cannot carry encyclopedias in his head, isn't it the very height of vanity for him to call himself educated?

Subhadip Biswas said...

Interesting conversation and I simply could not resist the temptation to just chip in and say a few words. The very first impression that i have got is that people still look up at MBAs with awe and in India there is a special class who are supposed to be more revered-- the IIM class. Well before coming on to the focal point of this conversation I would just like to make some comments regarding academics and ask the readers to just ponder on them and then understand or realise what Sheng has said in his article or Suvro Sir has been trying to say for a long long time. The question arising in many people's mind is how can an IIM-MBA be a monkey. The answer to that is very simple. Just look around your neighbourhood and meet those people who become MBAs. We cannot talk about exceptions at this point. Exceptions are there in every field of work. One cannot hold all MBAs or IIM-MBAs to be exceptions. My friends are in IIMs. They are happy about it. There parents are going around looking for brides for their sons but getting none. Coaching institutes guidance seems to be indispensable and they are cashing on this opportunity.
But the truth is one does not need to be a genius to crack this so called big exam of our land called CAT.Average students who crammed a few guide books and whose presentation and communication skills were polished easily clear this exam. One needs to work hard sincerely. I know people who have cleared this exam just on the basis of sheer luck and they are about to pass out from IIMs. And the irony is that this sort of riding-on your-luck also falls under the category of "exceptions".
One needs to read history in order to know that a genius does not even need to go to school. The solution to the current economic crisis can only lie with a genius and never with a person who is recognised not on account of his talent but his IIM or Harvard tag. Everybody wants to earn money and no matter what nobody wants intellectual or emotional fulfillment from any job. Nobody joins the Indian Army in order to serve our nation. Teachers, doctors and today it is with every profession --- everybody just wants to earn money. So the moment when there is going to be a crisis situation, such mechanical professionals would never have the ingenuity to come up with some solution to face that crisis. And the obvious reason for that is not all crisis situations are taught in classrooms or given in textbooks.
The problem is that many people who are simply working like machines after passing out from IITs, IIMs, Indian Military Academy, National Academy of Administration, AIIMS and other such places are trying to convince the younger generation that their petty job or profession matters and their EMI-paid car helps them to get social "status". Unfortunately it does not. And such people -- who are deceiving themselves into beleiving that they are capable of doing something important in life and that they have already done something big -- are being referred to as monkeys.If one is not what one has deceived oneself into believing then at-least one should not flaunt that misconception.
Choosing a profession and being a well read person are two completely different things. Getting admitted into the IITs can help you get a degree and then may be a decent job that pays you well but how do you become an educated and civilised human being. I am sure many of us would have come across such people while travelling in trains or planes whose education( i am talking about multiple degree holders) never helped them to become a civilised human being. On the contrary a normal college graduate can be very prudent,rational,matured,street-smart and have many other such qualities which can make him a better human being than an IIM graduate.
Incidentally my friends who are in Mumbai have been saying this to me that Mumbaikars only value those people at work who can work and do not come along with a train of degrees. On the other hand people in Delhi want to give jobs to only those who have degrees or paper qualifications. With this attitude towards work just see how many millionaires (even though they are monkeys at-least they do not have any degrees to flaunt and they know their business very well)Mumbai has and how many Delhi has! My purpose of using the word millionaire is not to measure success with money (which even mafias and dons have) but I am pointing out to those persons who did not have any degrees but they had talent and they used that to progress in life. They had a dream which they never had to give up because they had confidence on their own talents. Unfortunately degree holders often do not have confidence regarding what they are doing (i am talking about doctors with posh MD degrees).
The idea of success is very difficult to understand and differentiate between a monkey and a non-monkey. Lalu Prasad Yadav as far as i know does not hold any MBA degree yet he managed his group of IAS officers in such a fashion that he became an icon throughout the world. Harvard students were actually trying to learn management lessons from a milk-man! And the same with IIM-A!
I would pause here for a moment but i know many people are not going to agree with me and I am looking forward to their comments... and may be I would resume after that....

Sudipto Basu said...

While dates are important in history, I believe a logical turn of events (plus, their causes and effects) makes for more interesting reading. A basic timeline of events is more than enough for beginners: Nehru's Glimpses of World History being a prime example of an excellent history-book that pops up in my memory.

I've found history more than engrossing myself, but most of my friends back in the early classes disliked history just because they had to mug up a lot dates (that however, is not a problem I faced). Do not mean to sound facetious, but to quote Einstein, "if I had to know the dates, I could easily check my book". And like I said before, there are people who like to listen to history, even if they do not read a lot of it. Sure enough, there is a good chunk that doesn't pay heed to that too! God help them all.

A man who has both his dates and facts right is of course in a better position. All the same, not everyone is blessed with excellent memory. I am not sure if that gives him enough credential to call himself educated, or otherwise.

About school history books, I found several of them too prosaic. Whatever I learnt of the subject was from good teachers, and subsequently literature and the internet. Undoubtedly though, standards may have improved.

Sorry to have digressed so much. I hope the following posts do not pay much heed to what I have to say about history. It is, after all, without much consequence. Certainly lesser consequence than the subject itself.

Subhanjan said...

On an occasion where there is a lot of discussion on what MBAs do and what they don’t, I would like to say a few things that I have observed in my own experiences.

I had worked in two very well reputed banks previously and I had encountered many MBAs and non-MBAs doing the same kind of jobs there. This particular thing – ‘doing the same kind of jobs’ – may sound strange as it will make you question what an MBA degree is useful for if both MBAs and non-MBAs are doing the same kind of stuff. Well, this is true for MBAs in Marketing and Sales and not for those in HR, Finance or Systems. This is because, for selling something you do not need any degree. Believe me. All you need is a very good network, ability to rush to the hundredth customer with the same smile with which you went to the first one even though not one of the hundred customers have even regarded you as a human, fluency in the local languages and if possible a little bit in English, ability to lie bluntly if the customer is not impressed by the good features of the product, and a very thick hide. And there are people in multinationals who have risen at least to the level of ‘Regional Heads’ from the grass-root sales solely on the benefit of having those four things I mentioned just now. That is the only qualification that you need. So even if you are an MBA in Sales and Marketing (no matter which IIM you are from), if you do not have the above things, you are going to become a frustrated man and have a terribly unhappy family. Sadly enough an over whelming majority of people go for an MBA in Sales and Marketing without even being aware of this situation. They have been brainwashed constantly that it pays very well. But they do not know at what cost it comes. They are not aware of the fact that once they step in for selling, they are bound to have a product that is not going to satisfy the customer entirely and so they have to lie bluntly to sell the thing because if they don’t sell, they won’t earn their bread.

No doubt, such fooling of the customer has led to this ‘recession’. But I feel pity for the ones in the grass roots and in the mid-level managerial. They are forced to meet extravagant business targets every month and they have no option but to sell something in huge amounts even though it is not worthy to be bought. Or else they loose their jobs. I believe they are not the monkeys. Rather they the victims of an oppression and aggression. They are bananas torn apart and chewed on by the monkeys sitting in the decision-making board rooms of the companies. I have the option to abominate the mid-level people for choosing this type of career. But I won’t do it because that is not the solution. After all if you and I have to buy something, somebody has to sell it. So selling is not the problem here. Nor are those selling directly to us. But the problem is with the people in the top positions enforcing the lower level people to hit high sales targets so that they can earn more bonuses and afford a salon or an SUV. And this has been going on for long. Recession was inevitable.

I made a few wrong comments in the first place because I thought that all MBAs have been looked down upon. I was relieved to see Sir writing – “I'm sure you do understand that by hurling contemptuous invective at MBAs, I only meant a certain type. All those teenagers who have been brainwashed into believing 'I must get a BTech so I can get a job easily so I will never have to read a book again for the rest of my life' fit into the same type very well.” I failed to see previously that exceptions had been considered and kept out of this domain. It is because from my experience I had encountered several selfish, uneducated, mean-minded, base, unsocial, frustrated, totally money-minded, ruthlessly materialistic MBAs. But I have also seen one or two MBAs who are very nice people, voracious readers, practising good tastes, and talking real sense. No wonder they all are in HR, and not Sales or Marketing. Thus I failed it was wrong to mark all MBAs as monkeys. But I am sorry that I did not realise that exceptions have been spared of the abomination that most MBAs (and non-MBAs doing the same kind of work) deserve. So I apologise if I had been rude.

Before I end my comment, I will like to say a thing or two regarding a comment previously made. It said that those with MBA are not “modest, wise,” and the kind of people “who seriously seek intellectual and emotional fulfilment through their jobs”. Well is it also not that the case with countless other people in every other profession? How many ‘modest and wise’ men do we come across? I accept that a majority of MBAs are not modest and wise (and I am not going to the extent of saying ‘none’ of them is modest and wise). But how many people out there in other professions are ‘modest, wise and finding their job intellectually and emotionally fulfilling’? And that is the same as asking how many people out there is living on social work, or by being a genuinely good teacher, or by being a doctor who gives free treatment to poor patients at least on one day a week, or by being a lawyer who accepts a few clients sometimes not to earn much but to solve their cases even if they can’t afford him. Remember, the profession of a doctor, or a teacher, or a lawyer can not be intellectually and emotionally fulfilling if you don’t have the right attitude. Likewise, an MBA working in a Gramin Bank will have a lot of intellectual and emotional fulfilment if he has the right kind of attitude.

Subhanjan said...

On an occasion where there is a lot of discussion on what MBAs do and what they don’t, I would like to say a few things that I have observed in my own experiences.

I had worked in two very well reputed banks previously and I had encountered many MBAs and non-MBAs doing the same kind of jobs there. This particular thing – ‘doing the same kind of jobs’ – may sound strange as it will make you question what an MBA degree is useful for if both MBAs and non-MBAs are doing the same kind of stuff. Well, this is true for MBAs in Marketing and Sales and not for those in HR, Finance or Systems. This is because, for selling something you do not need any degree. Believe me. All you need is a very good network, ability to rush to the hundredth customer with the same smile with which you went to the first one even though not one of the hundred customers have even regarded you as a human, fluency in the local languages and if possible a little bit in English, ability to lie bluntly if the customer is not impressed by the good features of the product, and a very thick hide. And there are people in multinationals who have risen at least to the level of ‘Regional Heads’ from the grass-root sales solely on the benefit of having those four things I mentioned just now. That is the only qualification that you need. So even if you are an MBA in Sales and Marketing (no matter which IIM you are from), if you do not have the above things, you are going to become a frustrated man and have a terribly unhappy family. Sadly enough an over whelming majority of people go for an MBA in Sales and Marketing without even being aware of this situation. They have been brainwashed constantly that it pays very well. But they do not know at what cost it comes. They are not aware of the fact that once they step in for selling, they are bound to have a product that is not going to satisfy the customer entirely and so they have to lie bluntly to sell the thing because if they don’t sell, they won’t earn their bread.

No doubt, such fooling of the customer has led to this ‘recession’. But I feel pity for the ones in the grass roots and in the mid-level managerial. They are forced to meet extravagant business targets every month and they have no option but to sell something in huge amounts even though it is not worthy to be bought. Or else they loose their jobs. I believe they are not the monkeys. Rather they the victims of an oppression and aggression. They are bananas torn apart and chewed on by the monkeys sitting in the decision-making board rooms of the companies. I have the option to abominate the mid-level people for choosing this type of career. But I won’t do it because that is not the solution. After all if you and I have to buy something, somebody has to sell it. So selling is not the problem here. Nor are those selling directly to us. But the problem is with the people in the top positions enforcing the lower level people to hit high sales targets so that they can earn more bonuses and afford a salon or an SUV. And this has been going on for long. Recession was inevitable.

I made a few wrong comments in the first place because I thought that all MBAs have been looked down upon. I was relieved to see Sir writing – “I'm sure you do understand that by hurling contemptuous invective at MBAs, I only meant a certain type. All those teenagers who have been brainwashed into believing 'I must get a BTech so I can get a job easily so I will never have to read a book again for the rest of my life' fit into the same type very well.” I failed to see previously that exceptions had been considered and kept out of this domain. It is because from my experience I had encountered several selfish, uneducated, mean-minded, base, unsocial, frustrated, totally money-minded, ruthlessly materialistic MBAs. But I have also seen one or two MBAs who are very nice people, voracious readers, practising good tastes, and talking real sense. No wonder they all are in HR, and not Sales or Marketing. Thus I failed it was wrong to mark all MBAs as monkeys. But I am sorry that I did not realise that exceptions have been spared of the abomination that most MBAs (and non-MBAs doing the same kind of work) deserve. So I apologise if I had been rude.

Before I end my comment, I will like to say a thing or two regarding a comment previously made. It said that those with MBA are not “modest, wise,” and the kind of people “who seriously seek intellectual and emotional fulfilment through their jobs”. Well is it also not that the case with countless other people in every other profession? How many ‘modest and wise’ men do we come across? I accept that a majority of MBAs are not modest and wise (and I am not going to the extent of saying ‘none’ of them is modest and wise). But how many people out there in other professions are ‘modest, wise and finding their job intellectually and emotionally fulfilling’? And that is the same as asking how many people out there is living on social work, or by being a genuinely good teacher, or by being a doctor who gives free treatment to poor patients at least on one day a week, or by being a lawyer who accepts a few clients sometimes not to earn much but to solve their cases even if they can’t afford him. Remember, the profession of a doctor, or a teacher, or a lawyer can not be intellectually and emotionally fulfilling if you don’t have the right attitude. Likewise, an MBA working in a Gramin Bank will have a lot of intellectual and emotional fulfilment if he has the right kind of attitude.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I am getting tired of indulging Subhanjan here. Will someone please tell him that he is not getting the point?

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

Thanks for sharing the article. In fact, it is the first such article that I ever forwarded to my senior colleagues (with a link to your blog too). It indeed encompasses what you have been saying for sometime now.

A profit hungry business thrives on competitiveness and competitiveness ultimately gives way to greed. Somehow I notice greed is engulfing the fast emerging service sector. This is typically because price for services is not really market dependent. Yes, there are market yardsticks but they are too flexible.

Like learning of Civics in classes doesn’t make good citizens, learning on ethical practices in businesses world wide are fast being forgotten. I am part of the service sector for sometime now and now I have fair enough idea how it works. I must say, it borders on the issues that you have addressed.

However, it is a reality which we cannot avoid. As a junior employee one has little option to change the system. Only option perhaps is to either quit or hope that there are regulations around. Governments worldwide have put regulations in place for businesses though but a large number of processes cannot be regulated too. So it is a catch 22 situation really. Regulations have huge political implications for every individual government.

As far as the monkeys in Armani are concerned, I totally agree. There are too many of them. India faces a huge threat of being flooded with them since institutes which groom them have been mushroomed in every corner. However, it is not restricted to just MBAs but also Accountants and Economists. I remember once a very senior guy jokingly said to me, if you are seen reading something in office which enriches your knowledge (even if the book pertains to your own work area) and not doing any client work, you would be asked to explain why are you ‘wasting’ time? Now that is what the Monkey culture is, which is short-sighted and stupid.

Only after leaving university, I realised how big a jungle I have entered so that I can feed myself and my family.

The faster young boys like Subhanjan understands it the better it would be for them.

Regards

Tanmoy

Sayan Datta said...

@Subhanjan,
I don't think I need to write out a long explanation, Subhanjan; only a few points -
I did not say "there is none....." , I only said "I know none...." - blame it on my inexperience. Of the more than six billion people on this planet how many have I met anyway!
Of course greed is an all encompassing phenomenon. It permeates every profession, every walk of life - no one is arguing that!
I will go to the extent of saying that even things done with the right attitude do not always lead to fulfillment (now I think I am digressing a bit from the main topic), especially when a certain job is not solely dependent on the labours of one person alone and requires others to chip in as well. The important thing is to keep searching for that fulfillment, that satisfaction and to approach ones work with that search in mind.
@Tanmoy da,
I think Tanmoy da, the monkey culture is now part of our homes even! I have seen parents who don't let their children read anything apart from textbooks saying they ought not be wasting their time!

Soumallya Chattopadhyay said...

Sir,
I do agree with Mr.Biswas that one need not be a genius to fetch good results in CAT."ONLY"sincerity and hardwork would do.
But my question is-the type of world we are living in;can we see that every person around us is working sincerely and putting up a hardwork?The answer is obviously NO.
I remember that you told us in class that "most of the people are doggedly looking for shortcut methods in every field of work".So under the prevailing condition of the society,I think we should respect those who have put in that sincerity and hardwork to get admission in the IIT's or IIM's,or any such other good colleges in India(Not the roadside private colleges,which have sprang up like mushrooms!).
Secondly,as Mr.Biswas says that Genius need not go to school.It is also true.In fact Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore did not attend school.But my question is- does it mean that from now,every parent should prohibit their children from going to school in order to bring them up as a GENIUS?
The word "GENIUS" itself means someone with EXCEPTIONAL talent.One can never try hard to become a GENIUS.It has to be within him from the time of his birth.So evidently,such people are not born regularly.
Thirdly,as he writes about Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav......I have a doubt here too-In a place like Bihar,where almost every person is considered uncivilized(compared to other states)till today,Lalu has been able to raise and lead a party and win the support of the Biharis from time to time.I would like to ask him,is it so easy to MANAGE the people and influence them with one's own leadership quality?Lalu has been able to MANAGE the human minds,which is considered to be the toughest work to be done by any person.So it is certainly not astounding to see that he gives lectures at IIM-A.
Another thing that I would ask sir is-
MBA is taught in order to make the students understand the business tactics and to run the business efficiently.Both the Ambani brothers are MBA's and they are counted amongst the richest persons of the world.
1)Would it be rational on our part to consider them as monkeys?
2)Can any Tom Dick and Harry sit on the chair of the CEO or the MD of a business firm?Would he be able to run the firm successfully?
It is true that some of the MBA's are very treacherous.But such people are there in every field of work...isn't it?So I think that the number of such disgusting and treacherous people should be reduced in order to recover the economy rather than to hurl accusations at only a particular class of people.What do you think?
Thanking You
With regards,
Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Soumallya,
You need to read a great deal before you find out that the answer to your question number two is "Yes". The problem with you boys is that you are far more eager to express opinions than to learn. Exactly how many histories of big business houses have you read so far?

As for number one, when your father leaves behind a gigantic and highly successful business house with scores of highly skilled and experienced experts to tell you how to run it, it is infinitely harder to fail as CEO than to succeed. Besides, if the Ambani brothers have done well (and they haven't done so well, actually, else they would not have split the house apart!), I bet they learnt vastly more about doing business from their genius of a dad (who didn't have an MBA, mind you!) than anything they learnt while taking their MBAs.

And before you accuse me of abusing only 'one particular class' (meaning MBAs), do please take the trouble to read up the earlier comments!
Sir

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

while doing graduate studies in US in the late 80s, early 90s- it was a well known fact and a much enjoyed joke in schools coming from the profs-

"America has two big problems... lawyers and the MBA program"

first one, the litigious nature of Americans- if you slip and fall on wet floor in Japan, you and everyone around you would try to fix the problem...in US, you and everyone around you would try to sue for max compensation.

next, the over hyped MBA.. there has been talks, studies and analysis to put this in perspective for years. It took years and lots of bubble bursts to establish that they (they hate to be referred this way these days) had lots of problems in the math and calculations they were selling.

hey, I didn't participate and make any money in the stock market and its sport. but I sure can ask questions that some might feel uncomfortable to hear, let alone try to answer

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I would like more comments from people above 40 here: people who, I hope, have read a great deal besides having had at least twenty years' opportunity to experience the world as it really is, and therefore no longer harbour childish illusions and ideals about how things work in the corporate world.

And from much younger people - those who are barely out of school and college - I'd prefer to have more questions and fewer opinions. Even if they refuse to read, let them acquire a little work-experience first! It has been well said that one year at the workplace is, for most people, worth ten in school.

Sayan Datta said...

Please excuse the typos in my last comment. The last sentence at the end of the third para will be - "The important thing is to keep searching for that fulfillment, that satisfaction and to approach ones work with that in mind".
And at the very end of the comment the line should be - "....ought not to be wasting their time."

Rashmi said...

The blogpost itself and the comments have taught me quite a few things
(As the purpose of any discussion should be progress):
1. I have very poor knowledge of economics, the corporate world, the MBA degree, the recession itself (and definitely not enough to comment directly on the post) and so am learning….
2. I had no idea of what is actually taught in Management schools and in coaching institutes for CAT (although I had innate aspersions) but I know now that at every phase, education is in the same level of dirt : the essence has long gone and greed, money and the illusion of success have taken the front.
3. As I have already realized that there is nothing to stare wide eyed and open mouthed at IITians and people holing their PhDs, it is an even more eye opening fact that the same holds good for MBAs from IIMs (or any other ‘reputed’ Management institute of any other country).So next time I come across an MBA from IIM, “Wow,IIM!” would certainly not be my first impression.(( And I can FEEL a pressing need that more and more people have this realization soon as it is really necessary to develop one’s discrimination))
4. There is definitely a deep connection to all the problems that we (Indians and the human race at large) are facing today.
We have stopped FEELING ANYthing.That is why we are left with facts without wisdom, formulae without Mathematics, problems without Physics, diagrams without biology, celebrations of Valentine’s Day without love and compassion and certainly hoistings of the national flag without nationalism. It is necessary to contemplate on the essence of things.
5. All the things that ‘matter’ are not really important. That goes equally for looks, degrees, bank balance, one’s ‘caste’ and ‘religion’.
6. No compulsions should stop us from striving towards a positive change; we need to keep on trying………
Sir, I am afraid I have strayed too far from the context but I really wanted to share the thoughts above because they were triggered by your post and the comments that followed.
And Sir,I have a doubt.
What is the crux of Business after all? Because I think every profession has equal importance, I am sure business has been misinterpreted. What are the virtues of a true businessman?
Warm regards
Rashmi

Suvro Chatterjee said...

For the time being, Rashmi, let a short and simple answer suffice: a good businessman (from society's point of view) is exactly like a good doctor, lawyer or teacher: one who respects money and works hard and saves hard and invests wisely, and does not want to get rich quick!Alas, we live in such a polluted age that we are fascinated by, and turned into morons by our fascination with the handful of super-rich around the world, no matter how they have made their money. And so we forget that for every one big success (the Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett type) who has made it big by dint of talent combined with good luck (it takes good luck, always, otherwise you become a J.C. Bose instead of a millionaire Marconi...), there are a million cheats and frauds posing as businessmen, whether you think of the petty fish-vendor who uses false weights, or the CEO of an MNC who grows fat devising and fobbing off bad insurance policies on unwary customers!... and the most pathetic of us are those who defend, and even glorify such crooks for fear that otherwise we won't get jobs, or lose the jobs we have!

Sayan Datta said...

The way we speak and conduct ourselves in public goes a long way in defining the kind of person we are. With that in mind, I must say Rashmi hasn't strayed from the contents of the blogpost at all. As far as I can see she has read the post, got the point and has not been afraid to ask questions; whereas, some commentators (please bear with me when I say this) have only pretended to ask when they were actually more interested in expressing opinions.
Having known her for over a year I can say without a shadow of a doubt that she is the kind of person who thinks, talks more sense than most and most importantly isn't embarrassed to say - "I do not know but I will try to figure it out". That alone typifies a good student and an honest person.
We need more of the likes of her.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Quite, quite, Sayan. Most of our young people have grown up lazy, irresponsible, ignorant, ill-mannered, pampered, greedy for boys' toys of every description (from smart mobiles to fancy cars), and very weak, fragile and brittle egos masking a very deep sense of inferiority: at heart they know how deep their ignorance is, and so it is no wonder that they cannot dream of telling anybody 'I don't know much about this subject: please enlighten me'! It takes a very strong character to say that sort of thing, and the way middle- and upper middle class parents bring up their children these days is certainly not conducive to developing that kind of strength of character! What can you say about children who sip Pepsi before the TV at home while their parents not only spend lakhs but run from pillar to post to get their sons admitted to third-rate but very fancy looking colleges for an MBA which is not worth the paper it is printed on, so that their worthless kids can become clerks and cybercoolies and sales agents on commission?

Soumallya Chattopadhyay said...

Sir,
Here is a topic that I would like to discuss with you.....
As you have written in this post,that there is an incredible craze among the students to study MBA,likewise,I see that presently,most of the young people are having a mad scramble to get a job in the I.T.sector.
When we ask any college graduate that which job he/she is intending to enter,about 85% of the answer is"A job in the I.T. sector".
Since I don't know a least bit of what actually is the motive of an I.T. job;or what actually is the work of an employee in the I.T. sector,I would request you to please write something on this subject.What exactly the job of an I.T. employee is?Why do they have this craze to enter an I.T.sector?Why has it become so lucrative in the present days?
I see that you have used the word"cybercoolie"in your last comment.What does it actually mean?
I would be grateful to you for your reply.
Thanking you,
With Regards,
Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

to Soumallya-

Information Technology is a widely and loosely used term for a domain of expertise. In the strictest of uses it would be referred to the expertise of those guys who have superior knowledge of computer hardware, network, internet protocol and services and various server technologies. But, it is often used to refer to all domains and activities in computing- hardware, software, networks and internet technologies.

India has a vast pool of educated who have two of the most needed skills to excel in this area, English and Math/Logic. The first of the two puts China and East Europeans at a distinct disadvantage in the competition.

It's for the reasons mentioned above that Indian graduates and India have been a favorite off-shoring channel for all big shops of the world in the past and would continue for years in the future- so much so, India is called the back-office of the world.

That's where all the hype and excitement for this field is coming from. Your's faithfully is a schoolmate of Suvro- has been trying to make a living in North America in the software area for the past twelve years.

Boy has it been tough for me (to the point of facing professional death and extinction) due to the off-shoring. I had been losing out time and again on government contracts for the ministry of health for a specific project.

Years later I did get a contract on that project in a different role. Got answer to the question that I wanted all that period- what happened in the original project?

what do you know? it was off-shored and entirely done in India.

Subhasis

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, seeing that Subhashis has put in his bit, I won't add much here, Soumallya: we can talk more about this in private. But I cannot help adding one little thing: our entire middle-class are brilliant at making a virtue out of a necessity. Since other jobs which allow you at least a middle-class livelihood are vanishingly rare nowadays, especially if you lack the talent and grit and patience and courage that is needed to become a successful doctor, lawyer, accountant or teacher (ask your dad how hard it is to become an engineer with the state electricity board, for instance), we go about telling one another how great it is to get a job in the IT-sector... simply because hardly anything else is available!

As for the term cybercoolie, a google search will give you interesting results.

krishanu said...

Sir,
There seems to have been a fair bit of argument regarding the article by Mr. Sheng, and the subsequent link to the article by Matthew Lynn has, hopefully, drawn some fair bit of attention too.If I am not terribly off-the-mark, a general sense of antipathy towards MBA's is noticeable: not by any means towards the people with that very 'coveted' degree themselves, but the general trend of the society to rank them somewhere amongst the most educated and knowledgeable people around. I myself have a lot of friends who are aspiring to be a part of their 'dream' B-schools (which often change), and i think this is a classic example of Herd Behaviour and Group Think. Hence, I thought of sharing a small anecdote which i recently came across in Reader's Digest. It goes something like this:
A lone farmer is herding his flock of sheep back to their barn,when suddenly a snazzy BMW roars up to the stunned farmer's yard. A handsome young man, in a designer suit, and matching eye-wear steps up to him and asks," Listen, old-timer, if i can correctly inform you the number of sheep you have got, could i borrow one of them?" The farmer agrees: the Smart fellow whips out a microphone out of thin air, connects it to a satellite, scans the number of sheep by thermal imaging, and finally pronounces that the hilly-billy has 20 sheep. The farmer is awed , and with a winning smile , the young executive chooses a sheep and is about to return when the farmer calls him back. he asks him,"You, young man, aren't you an MBA?" The top gun acquiesces, and asks the farmer how he knew that. So, the farmer says," Easy, You did something for me which was of no use to me, You told me something I knew already, and, that sheep you chose, I'm afraid, isn't a sheep at all:it's my dog"

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Delicious joke, Krishanu, thanks, but anybody can dismiss that as only a joke. What will you say about this real-life incident?... I received an advertising flyer from a very large multinational bank, tutoring me about how best to save and invest with an imaginary example which went like this: a young successful software expert, aged 30, is saving in a certain pattern per month so that he may have put aside so much money for his daughter's marriage and so much for his son's college by the time they are of age. The fictitious daughter is 12 years old. Which means that this software engineer was such a genius that he had finished all his studies, got a job, married and fathered a child, all by the age of 18! And this ad. had been obviously designed, or at least vetted, by their top management (who, we may presume, are all MBAs), and not one of them noticed the absolutely moronic gaffe before lakhs of those flyers were mailed off to potential customers.

What more needs to be said about the alertness, IQ and sense of responsibility of the typical MBA?

krishanu said...

Sir,
The incident you mentioned puts into perspective the comments of the entire community who follow this blog regularly, with specific regard to this article. At least,the management of the 'well known multinational bank' which sent out the advertisements is setting a positive example: marry early, get a hot-shot job, worry about your child's future, save for them, and still retain enough youth to enjoy your son's marriage with a flute (or two) of champagne without having to worry about your bladder!The day is not far when, I imagine, the ads will start coming out in SMS jargon, because the target group will be so young, and so busy working, wooing ladies and,later, playing the ideal father, that they will probably not have enough time to go through Nesfield's or Fowler's books, thereby forsaking this language which we mortals use.By the way, the multinational banks or financial concerns are known for employing 'the' best MBA's in the country:one wonders what the management graduates of lesser known B-schools will be capable of.
Of course, the country needs people who have a training in management techniques: the only flaw in the system is the inability of the recruiters, HR heads, or headhunters to choose the 'right' people.But then, that issue probably plagues every organization in our country.I would be very interested to know the opinions of our friends here, and of course your, about the essential qualities which a candidate should possess, before he or see is allowed to pursue an MBA.
PS: Can't we declare our moms to be the best managers in the world? Right from the days when she used to comb our hair before running us off to school,to the day the sons and daughters have left their nests and have settled either in India or abroad,she has (arguably) taken care of everything, and that too without any fuss.We have much to learn from them, including those of us who are doing an MBA themselves.
Regards,
Krishanu Chatterjee

Anonymous said...

Suvro - Being over 40, I'm claiming my right to comment...you asked for it.

I don't have a MBA but worked with and later recruited many who did.....I would'nt any more. I found them trained as glib talkers who knew a little about a lot but not a lot about much and all gung ho on one-up-manship.

Mind you, this is typically within the first five years of graduating. Life has a strange way of levelling out things down the track. The glitz usually wears off then. You see, all it does is gives someone a favourable start - thereafter other things come into play.

But make no mistake, they are good boys and what many seemed to have missed, good girls too....just kind of misdirected in having swallowed the vanity bait hook line and sinker.

I don't blame MBAs for the worlds financial crisis ....it is all round greed of the get-rich-quick brigade who is to blame (admittedly MBAs might be well represented in that group).

Also, don't expect too much off them. They are after all produced for industry according to the standards sought by industry and industry is in the business of making money.

In a previous life I used to often meet people at corporate hangouts who'd introduce themselves with the power handshake and "I'm.....I'm an MBA". I became a practised hand at replying, in a somewhat tongue in cheek manner, of course " Is that all ?". I always did believe they were bright sparks capable of so much more.

For drivers of social change, and people who will inspire others to a higher platform of living and thinking, you need to look elsewhere.

For those of you who know Suvro, you are lucky to have come across one such person. He had it all at his feet (Engg., Medical, and IIM if he wanted to) but turned his back on it for more worthwhile pursuits......Best wishes.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

It's so sad that the above comment had to be written anonymously!

Shilpi said...

...still I'm awfully glad someone wrote that comment, and I'm grateful too.
Shilpi

Suvro Chatterjee said...

May I request 'Anonymous' once again to tell us who he is (I have a fairly good idea, but I'd love to have it confirmed)?

No, I don't exactly blame MBAs for the world's financial crisis. But they remind me uncannily of the Nazi stormtroopers who did all the dirty work for those who actually wielded power in Hitler's Germany. And the Turkish janissaries, and the compradores under the Spanish conquerors in south America, or the lumpen CPI(M) 'cadre' much closer to home! They are never to blame, are they, they 'only carry out orders' ... and find it very much to their advantage to do so!

Anonymous said...

It's Bev - I'm in Melbourne now...

Archishman Sarkar said...

Respected Sir,
This is not entirely a comment. Its a joke which I came about on the internet. As you had rightly called "MBA- Mamar Barir Abdar"!
Here's the joke:
"You know you are an MBA when....

You ask the waiter what the restaurant's core competencies are.

You decide to re-org your family into a 'team- based organization.'

You refer to dating as test marketing.

You can spell 'paradigm.'

You actually know what a paradigm is.

You understand your airline's fare structure.

You write executive summaries on your love letters.

You think it is actually efficient to write a ten-page paper with six other people you do not know.

You believe you never have any problems in your life, just 'issues' and 'improvement opportunities.'

You calculate your own personal cost of capital.

You refer to your previous life as 'my sunk costs.'

Your three meals a day are a 'morning consumption function', a 'noontime consumption function', and an 'even consumption function.'

You start to feel sorry for Dilbert's boss.

You refer to divorce as 'divestiture.'

Your favorite artist is the one who does the dot drawings for the Wall Street Journal.

None of your favorite publications have cartoons.

You account for your tuition as a capital expenditure instead of an expense.

You insist that you do some more market research before you and your spouse produce another child.

At your last family reunion, you wanted to have an emergency meeting about their brand equity.

You decided the only way to afford a house is to call your fellow alumni and offer to name a room after them if they help with the down payment.

Your 'deliverable' for Sunday evening is clean laundry and paid bills.

You use the term 'value-added' without falling down laughing."


My father has been recently pursuing his MBA degree....supposedly for a pay hike( I have been fed up telling him to start some tuition instead of this crap)!!

I have read all these so called "Management Books" and they seriously contains "NOTHING". Nothing than a standard 5 would not understand!

With Regards,
Archishman Sarkar

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Here's another link that might come in useful:
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090910/jsp/careergraph/story_11471702.jsp

If nothing else, it might warn away many gullible parents from wasting a few lakhs of rupees by sending their dud kids to B-grade schools, when they could be earning their living instead by getting into humble jobs. Most MBA degrees, I shall always maintain, give lazy and poor students swollen egos and unrealistic expectations, and they have to learn, with or without an MBA, how little they are actually worth, by working in the real world. The sooner the better, unless their parents' money is other than hard-earned.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

One more:

http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-terminator-comes-to-wall-street/

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Look up Brooksley Born (listed at number 3) in the following link for another write-up on the financial crisis, and the dangers still looming ahead:


http://bit.ly/z64Naz

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

Here's another link that might be pertinent-

https://aeon.co/essays/how-economists-rode-maths-to-become-our-era-s-astrologers

With regards,
Saikat.